Sometimes your worst enemies aid you in ways you could never help yourself.
From July 10 to October 31, 1940, hundreds of badly-outnumbered pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) fought off relentless attacks by Germany’s feared Luftwaffe.
For Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, it was a major setback.
He was forced to concede that he lacked the strength to destroy the British air force–thus making it possible for his navy to land German troop on English soil.
But Hitler wasn’t prepared to give up. He believed he could so terrorize Britons that they would demand that their government submit to German surrender demands.
From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England–and especially London–to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.
The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940
More than 100 tons of high explosives were dropped on 16 British cities. During 267 days (almost 37 weeks):
- London was attacked 71 times;
- Birmingham, Plymouth and Liverpool were attacked eight times;
- Bristol was attacked six times; Glasgow, five; Southampton four; and
- There was also at least one large raid on another eight cities.
Between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.
“London can take it” went the British slogan. But, in the United States, Americans–including President Franklin D. Roosevelt–wondered: For how much longer?
Clearly, what Great Britain desperately needed most was a miracle.
Exactly that happened on June 22, 1941.
With 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.
German tank commander
Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.
Hitler had turned on his partner-in-crime. The two dictators had greedily split Poland between them when Hitler launched his invasion on September 1, 1939.
Now they were locked in a fight to the death.
People in England were also surprised–but also suddenly hopeful. Britain now had an ally whose resources might tip the balance against Hitler.
In the United States, then-Senator Harry S. Truman spoke for many Americans when he said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”
Today the United States faces just such an opportunity.
In Syria, two of America’s most deadly enemies are now waging war–with each other.
Yes, it’s Hezbollah (Party of God) vs. Al-Qaeda (The Base).
United Nations officials estimate that more than 70,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war since conflict began on March 15, 2011. The trigger: Protests demanding political reforms and the ouster of dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.
Flag of Hezbollah
Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them. It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.
Al-Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis. Examples of sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.
Flag of Al-Qaeda
On one side is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, whose allies include Russia, Iran, Hezbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government.
On the other side are a host of Syrians and thousands of foreign Sunni fighters some of whom have affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
And now that civil war has spread into neighborhing Lebanon.
On January 2, 2014, at least four people were killed and 77 injured when a car bomb exploded in a residential neighborhood in southern Beirut.
The Shiite-dominated district, Haret Hreik, is known as a Hezbollah stronghold.
Two days later, an Al-Qaeda linked group claimed responsibility for the attack.
At a press conference for President Barack Obama on March 20, 2013, a reporter asked:
“Morally, how is it possible that for the last two years, tens of thousands of innocent civilians [in Syria] are being massacred and no one–the world, the United States and you–are doing anything to stop it immediately?”
That is entirely the wrong way to view this conflict.
There are solidly practical reasons why the United States should avoid this bloodfest–while cheering on each of its mortal enemies to do its worst.
First, the United States only recently disengaged from Iraq.
On Dec. 15, 2011, the American military formally ended its mission there. The war–begun in 2003–had cost the lives of 4,487 service members, with another 32,226 wounded.
Second, the war in Iraq fell victim to the law of unintended consequences.
The Bush administration invaded Iraq to turn it into a base–from which to intimidate its neighboring states: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran.
But while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had been a counter-weight to the regional ambitions of Iran, the destruction of the Iraqi military created a power vacuum. Into this–eagerly–stepped the Iranian mullahs.